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In this controversial and provocative book, Mary Anne Franks examines the thin line between constitutional fidelity and constitutional fundamentalism. The Cult of the Constitution reveals how deep fundamentalist strains in both conservative and liberal American thought keep the Constitution in the service of white male supremacy.
Constitutional fundamentalists read the Constitution selectively and self-servingly. Fundamentalist interpretations of the Constitution elevate certain constitutional rights above all others, benefit the most powerful members of society, and undermine the integrity of the document as a whole. The conservative fetish for the Second Amendment (enforced by groups such as the NRA) provides an obvious example of constitutional fundamentalism; the liberal fetish for the First Amendment (enforced by groups such as the ACLU) is less obvious but no less influential. Economic and civil libertarianism have increasingly merged to produce a deregulatory, free-market approach to constitutional rights that achieves fullest expression in the idealization of the Internet. The worship of guns, speech, and the Internet in the name of the Constitution has blurred the boundaries between conduct and speech and between veneration and violence.
But the Constitution itself contains the antidote to fundamentalism. The Cult of the Constitution lays bare the dark, antidemocratic consequences of constitutional fundamentalism and urges readers to take the Constitution seriously, not selectively.